Here is the latest in our series of reader anecdotes about the end of the heyday of the Ivy League Look. If you’d like to share your own memories, use the contact button above.
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I was in school, college and grad school as an eyewitness to the Ivy League Look from the late ’60s into the early ’80s. I grew up in a traditional WASP family in the Philadelphia surburbs, including Bryn Mawr and the Philadelphia Main Line, as well as Chestnut Hill.
I actually think I was born with a rep tie, blazer, Brooks Brothers buttondown, and Weejuns all surgically attached. I never changed. My Bass Weejuns have always had the half-moon slip, not today’s more aggressive sweetheart lips slip Bass now sells. I’ve always naturally just followed my father, who dressed the same. He never changed. Being a Philadelphian, my parents and grandparents on both sides all went to the University of Pennsylvania, so it was pretty much my duty to follow in their footsteps. First receiving my BA from the University of Pennsylvania, summa cum laude, as well as Phi Beta Kappa, then receiving my MBA from Wharton.
During prep school and boarding school on the East Coast, I was always clean cut in the Ivy tradition. I always felt like the heavy breached Christian who needed the proverbial shove to unleash anything that would even come close to the sartorial splendor that arrived in the 1970s. But, to be honest, I’ll have to admit that I did fall for a brief time as an undergraduate for that sartorial anarchy to come as in the Princeton pic posted previously. But even with long hair I still couldn’t let go of the tweed jacket, buttondown shirt and rep tie.
Even though I really never left it, I really swung back to the Ivy League Look just as I started my MBA at Wharton in the late ’70s. Immediately the long hair was replaced with a clean-cut look, back to the white walls on the side. Ever since then its always been right back to my roots of shopping at J. Press or Brooks Brothers, also Chipp at that time and others. But nowadays I’m careful at Brooks, since at times they can be more trendy, which makes me too uncomfortable. I do get compliments from Brooks every time they see the date I started using their charge card, over 30 years ago now.
In addition to blazers, tweeds, reps and Weejuns, I still have my Greenwich Greens, my old Nantucket Reds and Breton Reds, as well as white ducks, white bucks, and madras for the summer, plus Lilly Pulitzer from years ago as well as other traditional stores that never change.
In short, I did succumb a little for a brief period to the transition, but quickly came back to my natural roots as conservative Main Line Philadelphian. To be honest, it was refreshing for a brief change, but I still felt a little uncomfortable until I came back to my roots of the Ivy League family tradition and upbringing. Since I’ve been in NY now for the past couple of decades, I’ve also thrown in a white tie pic, which is still pretty much a part of the Ivy League formal wardrobe and a big part of the Park Avenue Ball season, especially during Christmas, complete with decorations from various societies, clubs, etc. These fun formals, where it’s either family or friends, are even more de rigueur in Philadelphia.
And I still motor around in my navy blue Mercedes. Almost an “Ivy League Look” mobile in a way, such clean, conservative lines — very elegant and understated. I just can’t part with it, and it’s still very reliable. Just like the clothes. — WILLIAM SWALM
Bill, did any of your forebears have their clothing made by Philadelphia’s finest merchant tailor, Robert Stewart?
Can someone role me what Greenwich Greens are? I’m assuming that they are green chinos.
I meant “tell” not “role”, pardon the error.
It’s a light green trouser, a color RL referred to as “sea foam green ” around 1980.
I’m enjoying these stories. They do seem a bit like a masculine version of the “girls with pearls” pictures at the front of Country Life magazine. His point about older Mercedes applies even more to BMW’s where the clean, conservative lines are replaced with the jelly doughnut lines.
I see thank you! So they’re light green chino trousers.
“I’ve also thrown in a white tie pic….complete with decorations from various societies, clubs, etc.”
Sir, very nice post, thank you. A question from the blighted Deep South, if you would be so kind: might you elaborate on the “decorations” you’re wearing/have acquired? What clubs and organizations would issue them, and under what circumstances? Many thanks.
Yeah OK even though the headline is taken from the text, it doesn’t exactly make sense. If you were born with the stuff, it wouldn’t have been surgically attached.
Regarding the decorations, generally the same societies are also in the South – hereditary organizations like Sons of the Revolution, Society of the Cincinnati, etc.
On a related subject, some of those who comment on the collar lengths of Brooks Brothers button down shirts might want to look at the picture of the three (pocketless) Brooks Brother shirts at the beginning of this article.
(The button down shirt is the shirt in the middle, between the tab collar shirt on the left and the point collar shirt on the right.)
Image from 1962.
CC’s pic of William Holden posted earlier this year may just be the gold standard for collar length and roll, but also for that devil of a slight indentation/flare detail coming straight off the collar band http://www.ivy-style.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/image1.jpg
Also, can someone tell me the difference between Breton Reds and Namtuckey Reds? I thought that Nantucket Reds were just Breton fisherman’s pants which would make them the same as Breton Reds.
Again, pardon the error it should be “Nantucket”.
See Chris Sharp’s great piece here:
The MB in the pictures looks to be an old W114/115, which was a (very) late 60s and 70s model. In Ivy terms, Post Heyday and pre-preppy.
I have fond memories of stinky W123 diesels moping around the neighborhood.
Thanks for the link, so Breton Reds are White Ducks dyed red because they’re made of cotton canvas and Nantucket Reds are plain cotton twill chinos dyed red. Let me know if I understand this correctly.
You’ve spent too much time in NYC. A proper Main Line Philadelphian would never agree to be profiled in any kind of publication.
The MB is a 1968 300 SEL